Rink to Rink: Detroit wins battle for 8th place

Thankfully, the hockey (and not a debate about hits) was center stage Monday night. As the league tries to add a face-saving rule or two, I think we can all agree that it would be pleasant if this issue “worked itself out” – at least for a few merciful days. We could use more nights when the question is: “which team will position itself in the Western Conference’s eight spot?” instead of “should he get suspended for that hit and if so, how long?”

Let’s take a look at last night’s action.

Red Wings 2, Flames 1

Tomas Holmstrom might as well be called the eclipse (or, if nothing else, we could find some way to shorten a nickname like “man with huge head who sits in front of you in a movie theater”). The Swede gets under the skin of goalies with far more skill than a crease crasher such as Corey Perry and he did what he does better than anyone else in the NHL on Monday. His screen of Kipper allowed him to score his 20th goal of the season right around the last minute of last night’s game in Calgary, putting Detroit in the driver’s seat for the final spot in the West.

Devils 3, Bruins 2

The Devils are nearly as hot as their biblical home right now, so I guess it makes sense that they’re on a three game roll in their actual home. They only really needed to play the first period – in which they took a 3-0 lead highlighted by Martin Brodeur’s amazing assist – to beat a punch-less Boston Bruins team. The win brings New Jersey two points within the Atlantic division lead held by Pittsburgh, whom they’ve dominated all season long and host on Wednesday.

Blue Jackets 5, Oilers 3

Kristian Huselius (1 goal, 3 assists), Antoine Vermette (1 goal, 2 assists) and Steve Mason (29 saves) propelled the Blue Jackets past a woeful Oilers team. I wouldn’t puff my chest out too much if I were Columbus; the Oilers are a horrific 1-14-1 on the road since the middle of December.

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    Predators survive Blues’ big late push to win Game 1

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    The Nashville Predators’ 4-3 Game 1 win against the St. Louis Blues makes it difficult to use “perfect.”

    You could get away with using that word, mind you, as the Predators followed up their surprising sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks by going up 1-0 against the Blues in St. Louis. Still, the ride was so bumpy in the third period, it’s probably wiser to focus on the fact that Nashville is unbeaten.

    Because, yikes, that third period was a roller coaster for Nashville.

    via Natural Stat Trick

    P.K. Subban scored a goal and two assists in the first 40 minutes to help the Predators bring a 3-1 lead into the final frame. The Blues absolutely dominated play in the third, however, briefly tying the game as they put immense pressure on Pekka Rinne & Co.

    Ultimately, the Predators received a game-winner from an unlikely source in Vernon Fiddler, gaining a 1-0 series edge.

    Even so, few will talk about “mystique” after that shaky finish.

    For one thing, both Rinne and Jake Allen allowed goals that they’d like to forget. Also, both squads experienced lopsided periods; Nashville dominated shots in the second (15-8) while the Blues almost doubled-up the Preds in the third (11-6).

    Nashville also seems likely to play without rising rookie Kevin Fiala, who was hospitalized after an absolutely horrifying crash into the boards.

    It was a weird and often wild – sometimes nasty – contest, with the Predators ultimately coming out on top. There’s plenty of intrigue heading into Game 2, which airs on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Friday. (You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; here’s the livestream link.)

    WATCH LIVE: Second round begins with Predators – Blues, Oilers – Ducks

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    Update: With both games likely to run simultaneously, note that Ducks fans can watch on NBCSN in the Anaheim market while the game is also available via streaming links below.

    In addition to that, Ducks – Oilers is slated to begin on NHL Network.

    This tweet explains it in additional detail.

    ***

    The second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs is set to begin on Wednesday, and the NBC Sports Group has you covered with wall-to-wall coverage.

    We start with a battle of the hottest goalies in the postseason so far as Jake Allen and the Blues host Pekka Rinne and the Predators. The duo of Game 1’s wraps up when Connor McDavid and the Oilers take on Ryan Getzlaf and the Ducks.

    Here’s what you need to know:

    Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues

    Time: 8 p.m. ET

    Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

    Edmonton Oilers vs. Anaheim Ducks 

    Time: 10:30 p.m. ET

    Network: NBCSN (Stream online)

    Video: Austin Watson takes a shot at Vladimir Tarasenko

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    The St. Louis Blues and their fans showed class in how they reacted to Kevin Fiala‘s very, very scary injury during Game 1.

    Still, these are two physical Central Division rivals, so you expect to see some nastiness here and there between the Blues and Nashville Predators.

    One moment that will likely divide onlookers came when Predators tough guy Austin Watson got a shot in on Vladimir Tarasenko, at least briefly hurting the world-class sniper.

    It’s unlikely to be a big deal since Tarasenko seems to be OK, but there may be some debate here. On one hand, there are those who believe Watson got away with a cheap shot; on the other, some seem to imply that there was some embellishment. Maybe it’s even a combination of the two?

    Either way, the Predators enter the third period up 3-1, so St. Louis will likely ask Tarasenko to focus on getting revenge by scoring goals.

    Blues just have no answer for P.K. Subban right now

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    In the first round, P.K. Subban was dominant against the Chicago Blackhawks, but mainly if you look at “fancy stats.” There’s nothing wrong with two assists in that sweep, but those aren’t jaw-dropping numbers.

    You don’t need to dig deep to see his impact on Game 1 against the St. Louis Blues. A mere glance at the box score – or a chance to see his blistering shot – and you’ll realize that the Nashville Predators defenseman has been a nightmare for Jake Allen & Co. so far on Wednesday.

    Subban seemingly scored his first postseason goal with the Predators to make it 1-0, but Colin Wilson was actually credited with the tally.

    No bother there. Subban gave the Predators a crucial lift shortly after player resumed following Kevin Fiala‘s horrifying injury, getting that first Predators playoff goal with another booming shot.

    Subban managed to draw a slashing penalty on Scottie Upshall and also sent another huge shot to set up a James Neal goal. There’s no mistaking that P.K. has played a huge role in Nashville going up 3-1 so far; the Blues need to find some answers, and fast.